Another List

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8 thoughts on “Another List”

  1. Ben, When you say “I’ll have a story ready,” what do you mean? Do you have structures for starting a new story, or the previous story, or something to give them if they can’t handle the activity?

    I am also doing non-language work. I am having students work together (group work!!), casually finding fun facts about the Roman world (gladiators!). I will then ask them to contribute their fun facts, writing the information on the board, telling them that they need to have this info in their comp. books. Then, I’ll give an easy open-note quiz at the end of tomorrow’s class. Students are finishing up the quarter, and they will have quite a few big tests. I’d rather do cultural stuff, be able to chat with them while they are working, check in with students who need to boost their grade, and just be as low-energy and high-interest as possible.

    1. I have my Anne Matava script books. If I need a script, I just open one of the books and and turn to a story and write its three structures down and start the story with step 1. It’s a bailout move.

      Or, just as effective for me is to start reading where we are in the novel, just continue from there with the reading/discussion process as it is described here in some categeory. That’s the best bailout move of all. I hope that answered your question.

  2. AWWW…Can I have a re-do??? I wish I had seen these ideas yesterday. Today was my first day back. Not pretty. I think I know why. Gotta love 20/20 restrospect.

    So I went in with the “no plan but just see what emerges” vibe, and with an idea to have the kids write 1 fun and 1 not-so-fun thing about vacation on either side of an index card, then I would use this info for PQA and such. This was actually pretty fun. It was a great reminder to me that the energy and “topics” must come from them. I know that is the subject of like 80% of this blog but I need lots of reminders.

    Ok, so if this was such a fun thing to do why did the day suck? Well, “es obvio” / “C’est evident” / …about halfway through the period I got nervous and thought we should start a novel. Grrrrr!!!! WTF was I thinking??? Why did I sabotage the perfectly good energy that was happening on a low-energy first-day-back by shoving something at them???

    Yeah, so I’m being a bit melodramatic. It was not totally awful. We eased into the reading with some transitional PQA, and we only read for maybe 15 minutes, but it definitely dragged. I guess this just points to my sometimes incapacitating FEAR. That voice that always uses the “s” word (should). I guess I’m just feeling a little stuck.

    And I’m mostly feeling out of whack with the rules and discipline–my definite weak points. I thought it would be good to start off the new year with a reminder and a recommitment (both on my part and on theirs) to the nuts and bolts that make things work. But then I didn’t have a plan for this, which I definitely need. Can I still do this even though I missed the opportunity today? I think the game idea is excellent, and I’ll try to use that as a format for the rules demo.

    Sorry. Just venting. But the question at the beginning of this post is great: what am I doing and why? I don’t know what I am doing. I would like to be doing massive PQA that comes from student-generated ideas. I guess I need a refresher on how to get meaningful info from kids via random PQA without going all over the place w/too much vocab. One successful thing that happened was a conversation about sleeping. That is always a hot topic. One class began with a literal parade of yawning students so I began asking them what their vacation sleeping and waking times were (average 10am for waking). This was a very amusing conversation…but how do I “milk” it more to keep it going?

    1. I’m doing bad with rules and discipline right now too. I really dropped the ball this 9 weeks, thank God next week is the last week with this group. This next 9 weeks, with a new group of kids, I really need to “grow a set” and be consistent with the rules. I always tell kids to stop talking and remind them of the rules but with no consequences. I’ll be “reaching for the phone” next 9 weeks. I just gotta get through one more week with this group of kids, this week has been the week from Hell, coming back from break and all.

  3. …how do I “milk” it more to keep it going?….
    My belief is that when the energy in a conversation dies, it just dies and you move along to something else. Is that what happened and why you went to a novel? Did you fell incapable of sustaining the discussion?

    Don’t worry about those things! It’s not what you are doing, but what the conversation is doing. Its the feel in the room and the presence of the language being spoken in a happy way – like that ski instructor I saw yesterday – that gives kids permission to relax. We don’t force language on the kids.

    A conversation has a life of its own and will last as long as it (the conversation) wants. Protect the sacredness of human interaction. Your job is only to have a plan of where to go when one thread dies out. That is why the Circling with Balls cards are so useful – there’s always another card there to make shit up about.

    Just set it up that way so that your PQA and CI have a quality of true natural honesty and seamless transition into the new so that when the one thread goes, you have another thing to do. What a pain in the ass to have to ask a bunch of yawning kids what they did over the break. Can you say artificial?

    The kids know it’s a game and on the first day back after a break, especially, they simply won’t play. I have been in those settings where it’s all fake and I never want to be in one again.

    I don’t know how I ever made it through those fake conversation days. God helped me. Now I know that in order for conversation to be real in my classroom, two things have to happen:

    1. the kids have to be interested in what I am saying – we have to have a good topic.
    2. the kids need to have at their disposal a wonderfully rich unconscious snow pack of words that they have accumulated there in their deeper minds through all the comprehensible input they have been so lucky to hear from you in all those classes from before.

    We acquire grammar in a way that cannot be predicted, says Krashen. In the same way, conversations cannot be predicted. But that flies in the face of another fact in our CI worlds, that we absolutely need to use words that we know they know already. It’s a catch-22. We want to have a random discussion, but we need to use words they know. Not easy.

    None of this is easy. Go watch the movie Moneyball. It shows how no matter how much you work or how much you take your inventory, you will never about the results of your work. I bet that class was the high point of the day for some kids. Like Mary Anne Williamson says, “Some of your biggest failures you may have judged as your biggest successes, and some of your biggest successes you may judged to be failures. We never know what the hell is going on.


  4. The way our break intersects with the German soccer league, we always have at least one game day to look at. This year we also looked at the Champions League and the German Soccer Cup.

    Then we talked about what students did during the break (not “what did you do for Christmas?” – everyone had a break). In one class we learned that one student was skateboarding, hit a rock and sprained his shoulder. In another class a student worked for family and earned money. Another student played in five soccer tournaments. Another student played water polo. Another student just ate, slept and played video games. Another student had only three people wish him a Happy Birthday ( so we sang to him). Then I gave a five-point quiz to see if everyone was listening.

    I know this second activity seems to fly in the face of comments John made in another thread. (, but they were sparked by something in the class. For example, the first student had his arm in a sling, so I asked about it. That led to the whole story of the mishap, complete with images of the longboard stopping against a rock and him imitating Superman (until he landed). The other conversations were similar in originating with the students, e.g. I happened to overhear the comment about getting so few birthday greetings, so I followed up.

  5. For the next few days I’m going to show the first two easy episodes of EXTRA in Spanish, it’ll be easy for my Spanish IIs. I’m going to use it as a springboard to our second novel Viva el toro!, which is also set in Spain, which I want to start next week. My kids love culture, so the novel will be our vehicle. I have a pdf I made about Barcelona/Catalonia/apartment life that I’ll use to set the stage for EXTRA – if anyone wants this pdf let me know.

    1. Ooh, yes! I would love this. Thank you Ben 🙂 my email address is

      Question: When you show EXTRA, do you show the whole episode and then talk about it? Do you pause it at different points? Just wondering if you have a particular system. I guess it depends on the group, but with my current group (Sp. 2) I’ve found that I need to stop the action periodically and ask questions or let them ask questions. I have only showed one episode…a long time ago, but am thinking of maybe doing this 1x week for a change of pace? Would love to hear how you (or others) have used this series.

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